Hello everyone and welcome to the June update. It’s been another month that reminds everybody involved with the Club that the idea of a ‘quiet summer’ once the fixtures are concluded couldn’t be further from the truth. Between tickets, kits, bars and renovation work it’s been the most hectic period I’ve known in my short time in this role. Below I’ve tried to draw everything together and give fans a sense of how we’re progressing as the countdown to the new campaign begins.
I’d like to start with a message of thanks and best wishes to Joel Dixon, a mainstay in the Barrow squad for six years and over 200 games. Joel brought stability to what had previously been a problematic area of the pitch for us and, despite occasionally losing his place to injury and form, his ability to reset and come back better than before is a real credit to him. The fact that he now hopes to play a starring role in a competitive League One side speaks volumes about the progress that he’s made at Barrow and is something that everybody associated with the Club should take immense pride in.
True to his word, Mark Cooper has acted quickly in the transfer market this summer and is well on course to meet his stated aim of having a largely settled squad by 1st July. It’s no secret that the playing budget is very competitive this season, and the Manager is a believer in having quality signings over quantity. This will likely result in a smaller and more tight-knit squad of professional players in this campaign as compared to last season when we finished with over 30 players on the payroll. We’re optimistic that this approach will not only benefit squad harmony but also allow the team to get into a rhythm. If we get off to a positive start, there’s no telling where the journey may take us.
And on the subject of journeys, we now know our fixture fate. There are some interesting games to look forward to this year but personally I subscribe to the view that each team plays everybody twice and it’s the same for us all. Barrow’s form against bottom sides last year should arguably have seen us relegated. Conversely, if you take our results against the top seven we might have been expected to finish quite a bit higher. Most leagues in the English pyramid are fiercely competitive and anybody can beat anybody but, having said that, it was nice to start plotting some away trips and planning ahead for the presumed return of fans from the start of the season. Like everybody else, football clubs have had no advice to the contrary and all of our planning is around a return to full capacity when season 2021/22 gets underway.
The pitch is now coming together. Gareth is very pleased with the progress of the grass and this week we took delivery of the artificial turf which will be laid around the perimeter to give a more professional finish. The walls of the extended dugouts are now in place and awaiting the arrival of new seats, meaning that we’re well on schedule to be operational by the time Bolton arrive on Saturday 24th July.
Inside the Cross Bar building there is still a lot of activity. As I’ll touch on later, the shop will be the first area to ‘complete’ this weekend as we reopen on Monday for the launch of our new home kit. After this, focus will turn to the changing rooms and match officials’ area to ensure that we can be fully functional in advance of our lone pre-season home match. The final areas to complete will be the refurbished staff offices, Manager’s office and laundry area which are naturally less of a priority than those key matchday facilities which are subject to non-negotiable deadlines.
Outside of the Club-led refurbishment, the volunteers continue to do excellent work around the ground. The press box upgrades have progressed at pace and are well ahead of schedule which is a credit to the GMV who have overseen the work. Elsewhere the regular churn of cleaning, oiling, painting, fixing and replacing that we see every summer is all ongoing not just on a Sunday morning but also through the week. It’s easy to overlook or take for granted the work that volunteers contribute to this Club but it’s no exaggeration to say that their efforts save us tens of thousands of pounds year after year.
At the time of writing, Season Ticket sales have reached 968. We look likely now to repeat the feat of exceeding 1,000 which, in the recent history of this Club, is an incredible achievement and one for which we thank every fan who has supported the team whether by renewing from last year or buying a ticket for the first time for the coming campaign. Regular updates on the number of sales will continue, with the next one likely to mark our 1000th Season Ticket sold.
In other ticketing news, supporters may have seen that tickets have now gone on sale for our first pre-season game away at Holker Old Boys on July 10th. Sales began at 10am today, exclusively to Season Ticket holders initially, with any tickets remaining at 4pm on Monday 28th June going on general sale. Holker have given Barrow 480 tickets to sell, with the balance retained by the home side for their own fans. There have been some technical issues this morning when tickets launched, exacerbated by our ticketing partner being unavailable to assist initially, but I believe these are now resolved and I apologise for any inconvenience it may have caused.
Tickets can also be put on sale for the Bolton Wanderers pre-season friendly, though the Club are waiting for further guidance – and in particular for the government announcement on 28th June – before we ‘go live’ with these tickets. Match tickets for our first few home league fixtures are in a similar situation and will be put on sale once we have confidence that games will be going ahead at – or close to – full capacity.
2021/22 kit launch
Hopefully, supporters will have seen that the home kit for the coming season has now launched and will be available to purchase online and in-store from Monday 28th June at 10am. Anybody wishing to buy their replica in person can come and visit the newly extended Club Shop from Monday and see the changes that we’ve made, though at the moment you’ll be greeted by vintage squash court flooring as we await the arrival of new carpets throughout the building.
Personalisation of kits is also available this season and is something that we’re all very excited about. If you want your name, a number or even those elusive EFL badges on your replica then the Club is now able to provide this service. As this is new to us and we can’t really predict the level of demand among the fan base, please be patient in the first couple of weeks as we find our feet with this new initiative. We hope that as many people as possible will want to personalise their shirts, but with that comes a lot of pressing! The online shop gives guidance on expected timescales to receive a personalised shirt, and we will, of course, give further updates via social media when necessary. Please make sure of your sizing on personalised shirts, as refunds won’t be an option on personalised shirts once they’ve been pressed, or 24 hours after the order is placed.
Fan Zone and thanks to Bluebirds Trust
It was great to attend some of the events that the Bluebirds Trust organised in the Fan Zone this summer. I know that they were really keen that we open the ground in some way prior to pre-season and allow fans back in as soon as possible and, once it became apparent that the Club wouldn’t have the capacity to organise these events ourselves, the Trust happily stepped in and assumed full control of the Fan Zone facility for the summer. I’d like to thank all of their volunteers and organisers for what has been a really significant amount of work and an invaluable help to the Club.
It's a shame that the Trust aren’t now able to continue through to the end of the Euros as originally planned but, having seen first-hand how much work has gone into setting up each event, I can certainly sympathise with their decision. We’ve had a really detailed handover document from Steve and his team outlining some suggestions and ideas to further enhance the facility in time for the new season, and the keys are now with our Hospitality Manager, Harry. He will begin the task of embedding a lot of the Trust recommendations, ensuring that permanent furniture, draught beer and other improvements are in place before we formally open the Fan Zone under the Club banner on 24th July.
There’s a lot more going on behind the scenes, some of which Harry has alluded to in his recent appearance on the Barrow AFC podcast. Recruitment of hospitality staff is ongoing, as is engagement with Barrow Borough Council and other external stakeholders and the finalising of some great new supplier relationships for the coming season. We’re also keen to organise events outside the fixture calendar to get full use of our facilities, and we hope to be able to announce more on the first of these soon.